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GDPR: Is it worth it? Asks Starfish’s Julien Speed

Does anyone else find this whole #GDPR thing a total pain?

It’s bad enough as a (responsible) business owner having to make sure my company is compliant with the upcoming regulations. As a PR firm, the worst thing we can do is bombard the media with spam they’re not interested in. So we curate our contact lists very carefully.

And if any journalist doesn’t want to receive our news stories (which, yes, does happen occasionally) then all they have to do is hit ‘reply’ with the word ‘unsubscribe’. Their details are immediately removed from our system and they never hear from us again.

"A tool originally designed to protect the consumer is just becoming an irritant"

PR executives across the country, anxious to comply with GDPR, are inundating the media with emails asking them to confirm that they still want to receive their press releases. As if hacks don’t get enough emails from flacks already.

But actually, it’s as a general punter that I’m finding GDPR to be totally irritating.

I have relationships with hundreds of organisations. I didn’t realise quite how many, until the new GDPR laws started to become imminent.

They include financial institutions, utilities, clubs, associations, professional advisers etc.

Now, I’m being bombarded with letters and emails asking me to review their new ‘Privacy Policy’. Which runs to pages and pages of very tedious small print.

OK, so no one is going to bother to read these interminable tracts. No harm done to that extent. On the other hand you have to ask yourself, what is the point?

But more annoyingly, many organisations are also now asking me to review my contact preferences. So I have to log on to their website, trawl through the communications I’ve already told them I want to receive, and re-confirm my agreement. Otherwise, they say they'll stop sending me anything at all.

Today alone, I received no fewer than 10 such requests.

The association I joined recently has asked me to confirm that I still wish to hear from it. Well, I wouldn’t be paying its subscription if I didn’t want it to ever darken my door again.

An advice site asked me to wade through a checklist of 27 different types of communication, despite the fact that I’m already happy with what it sends me.

Even my accountants emailed me today, requesting confirmation that I still wanted to receive their tips on saving tax. I mean, why would I employ an accountant and not want to know about stuff like that?

What a monumental waste of time!

A tool originally designed to protect the consumer is just becoming an irritant instead. Why are these things always gold-plated?

Clearly, measures need to be put in place to prevent the shocking abuse of data as evinced by the recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal which allegedly impacted 87 million people worldwide.

But so often, new legislation simply interrupts the lives of the ordinary citizen, whilst doing little to tackle the underlying problem.

It reminds me of the time when, after 15 years of paying for a household insurance policy by cheque, I rang the firm to pay by credit card (as I’d stopped writing cheques to anyone apart from my mother).

It refused to accept my payment, because it happened to be my wife who had taken out the policy in the first place. So they wouldn’t take my credit card details – yes, I was paying the firm, not the other way round – despite me telling the firm that it was me who had signed and sent the cheques for the past 15 years. And I happen to have the same surname, and live at the same address, as my wife.

Yet the real fraudsters and dodgy lobbyists somehow seem to be able to circumvent all these silly regulations…

Written by Julien Speed, joint managing partner of agency Starfish PR

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